9 Things every cyclist should know about carbon fibre.

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We often have riders contact us with questions about carbon fibre bicycles or components. With these products being quite a bit more expensive than aluminium, cyclists like to ask if it’s worth it and is it that much better?

We asked Silverback’s carbon specialist, Eduan Kruyswijk a couple of questions to help us better understand the material.

How long will a carbon bike last me?

Carbon does not fatigue like aluminium. However, uncoated carbon fibre and the impregnated resin can weaken over time by exposure to Ultraviolet light. For this reason, many carbon frames are painted with either and opaque paint or something with UV protection. Provided, you don’t subject the bike to fire, a hit big enough to break it, or put a notch in the frame or fork, it should last a very long time.

Do carbon bikes break/crack easier than aluminium bikes?

Technically no, but a break or crack can be more catastrophic on a carbon fibre bike than an alloy bike.

To get more into detail… The Ultimate Tensile Strength (UTS) is a material’s maximum stress it can take before it breaks. The UTS of carbon fibre is 3500 [MPa], yet Aluminium is 310 [MPa].

On the other hand, carbon is weaker in the plane perpendicular to the direction of the weave. Unlike aluminium that has homogenous characteristics in all directions. This means, that carbon fibre has weaker compression characteristics than Aluminium.

Can you feel a carbon bicycle flex?

A Carbon Fibre frame does flex, so does any other frame on the market. However, stiffness varies and can be manipulated during the lay-up. This is done through modulus-choice, weave type and wall thickness of the local area.

Does sunlight affect carbon fibre?

Yes, as mentioned in the first question, uncoated carbon fibre and the impregnated resin can weaken over time by exposure to sunlight. So, its best to store your bicycle out of the sun.

Is it risky buying a second-hand carbon MTB/Road bike/Wheels?

Yes. If you do not know the history oft he part/frame, it can be risky. Inspect all parts to ensure they are structurally sound and uncompromised. Your local bike shop can help you with this buying decision. Take in the bike/part and have them inspect it before you purchase.

How much weight can you save by purchasing a carbon fibre bike?

There is no right answer here. It is greatly dependant on the manufacturing of both frames respectively. Carbon Fibre generally uses less material and has more features integrated into the structure. As indication, the density of Carbon Fibre is 1800-2000 [kg/m3] where Aluminium 6061 is at 2700 [kg/m3].

Are carbon wheels worth it?

Carbon Fibre wheels are generally stiffer than the Aluminium wheel equivalent. Stiffness influences the ride characteristics, providing more direct road feedback. The drivetrain response is more efficient though a stiffer wheel structure.

Check out our carbon wheelsets on Gearshop.

Is a carbon road bike worth the money?

Be critical of your bicycle requirements. A carbon frame is a performance part and usually has a specific application. Since its inception in cycling, in the 1980’s, Carbon Fiber has established itself in the industry as a performance material of preference. The technology has become more common and thus more affordable to the consumer.

A carbon frame is only as good as its manufacturing and construction. A frame of highest quality is a worthwhile investment.

Do carbon fibre forks break easily?

The simple answer is no. The strength of a carbon fibre structure is highly dependant on the quality of manufacturing. A carbon fork manufactured, free from defect and without construction anomalies, is capable (with a safety factor) to withstand demands placed by the rider under normal use conditions.

Find out more about the carbon fiber used in our bikes HERE.

1 thought on “9 Things every cyclist should know about carbon fibre.

  1. That was well done. I am the person who along with Kestrel introduced carbon composites to the bike industry. Your presentation is well done and very factual.
    You are right about compression strength issues. I always used large tube section, very organic designs cored with polyurethane foam or honeycomb. This not only took care of compression issues but also acted as an internal damper/shock absorber, especially since I often built on cantilever beams for improved ride characteristics.

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